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Opera Lat. (Comm: Averroes. Ed: Nicoletus Vernia)
Volume III.2 : Ethica ad Nicomachum. Politica. Oeconomica.

Venice: Andreas Torresanus de Asula and Bartholomaeus de Blavis de Alexandria
for Johannes de Colonia, 3 Feb. 1483.

Price: $11,000

Includes the EDITIO PRINCEPS OF AVERROES'S COMMENTARY ON THE NICOMACHEAN ETHICS (in Latin translation by Hermannus de Schildesche), as well as the Latin text of Aristotle's Ethica in the translation by Robertus Grosseteste), Politica translated by Guilelmus de Moerbeka, and Oeconomica translated by Durandus de Alvernia.

It was printed as one of six individual and independent volumes forming the monumental Torresanus/de Blavis edition of Aristotle's Opera in Latin, edited by Nicoletus Vernia, which was THE FIRST COMPLETE EDITION OF ARISTOTLE'S COLLECTED WORKS, called by Joseph Moss "a very beautiful, and by far the most complete edition of Aristotle, in Latin, which has yet appeared" (J.Moss, Manual of classical bibliography, I, p.106).

The editor Nicoletto Vernia (d.1499) was the leading professor of natural philosophy at the University of Padua. Vernia was probably the most famous Aristotelian scholar of his day and the teacher of Agostino Nifo and Pietro Pomponazzi.

"The Opera edition of 1483 represents the consolidation of the medieval tradition of Averroes commentaries, as far as it was to be made available in the Renaissance, and it provided the basic format of later editions through 1542. [...] Nicoletus Vernia served as the editor of the 1483 edition, and he tells us in his preface that the impulse for the work came from Marcus Sanutus while the latter was studying in Padua and while his father Franciscus Sanutus was serving as prefect of Padua." (Philosophy and Humanism: Reinaissance Essays in Honor of Paul Oskar Kristeller, p.118-9)

All the volumes of the 1483 Torresanus edition of Aristotle's Opera are extremely scarce; complete sets are exceedingly rare and are now virtually unobtainable. BL ISTC locates only one complete set in the UK and only one in the US: a magnificent copy (sometimes described as "the most beautiful book in the world") on vellum in Pierpont Morgan Library, with luxurious illumination by Girolamo da Cremona.

Individual volumes of the 1483 edition were obviously sold separately, as well as in sets. The Ethics volume (vol. III.1) is among the rarest: the only copy in the US forms a part of the Pierpont Morgan Library set mentioned above.

Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd, known in the West as Averroes, was born in 1126 in Cordoba in Moorish Spain, and died in 1198 in Morocco. Averroes was a defender of Aristotelian philosophy against Ash'ari theologians led by Al-Ghazali. Averroes' philosophy was considered controversial in Muslim circles. Averroes had a greater impact on Western European thought. The detailed commentaries on Aristotle earned Averroes the title "The Commentator" in Europe. Latin translations of Averroes' work led the way to the popularization of Aristotle and were responsible for the development of scholasticism in medieval Europe.

Averroes is remembered "chiefly for his interpretation of Aristotle which developed into the complete philosophical system of Averroism. The central feature of this was a theory that the world is eternal, not a creation ex nihilo, but actuated by a creative power continuously at work [...]. Averroism was essentially an attempt to reconcile reason and philosophy with faith and religion. Averroes was not unique in this, but he expressed it perhaps more intelligently and forcefully than others [...]. Averroism deeply influenced both Christian and Jewish thought [...] and initiated the Schoolmen into the knowledge of Aristotle. The earliest editions of Aristotle were published with Averroes's commentaries (both text and commentary were Latin translations, the latter partly from the Arabic, partly from Hebrew versions) in which, and in various tracts, Averroism was adumbrated." (PMM 24).

Physical description:

Royal Folio, textblock measures 427 mm x 283 mm; extremely large example, probably untrimmed (for comparison: Pierpont Morgan vellum copy measures 409 mm x 272 mm). Neat modern rebinding in full vellum using a bifolium from a huge 16th-century decorated Spanish antiphonal.

104 (of 104) unnumbered leaves.
Signature collation: 104 Bl. A–C6 CC8 D–Q6 (Q6 blank].
Collated and COMPLETE, including the final blank.


  • A1r : Aristoteles, Ethica Nicomachea;
  • D1r: Averroes (Ibn Rushd), Commentary on Ethica, books 1-10;
  • L1r: Aristoteles, Politica;
  • Q2r: [pseudo-] Aristoteles, Oeconomica.

Colophon on leaf Q5v with note on the editor, Nicoletus Vernia, and with Johannes de Colonia's woodcut device in red.

Printed in double columns, 66 lines per column, in Gothic letter: Typ. 3:74G, 8:93G. (Aristotle's text in larger, and Averroes's commentary in smaller gothic type). Capital spaces without guide initials (unrubricated).


Jesuits of Freiburg: manuscript possession note dated 1666 to top margin of A1r.

Unidentified old stamp with monogram 'VF' to low margin of A1v and the final page below colophon.


Very Good. Complete. Several small wormholes mostly in the first (A) and the last (Q) quires, then quickly diminishing and disappearing towards the middle of the volume; the holes being quite tiny catch some individual letters but do not affect legibility.Some marginal water-staining, a bit heavier in the first quire (A) where it spreads to printed areas. Occasional light soiling, mainly marginal, and a few minor ink-spots. Generally, a superb, bright and solid example, unwashed and unpressed, with vast, probably untrimmed margins.

Bibliographic references:

GW 2337; Hain/Cop. 1660; Proctor 4701; Goff A 962; BSB-Ink A 701; IGI 794; Schweiger I, 57; not in BMC, Oates and Polain.

Please click on thumbnails below to see larger images.